Lunaya Pravda

23 May 2006

Pandemics, police, and procedure

Never use police, army, US pandemic expert says

Henderson, who likes to describe how he was vaccinated thousands of times against smallpox to demonstrate the immunization's safety to wary villagers, says it is much easier to halt epidemics by winning the trust of community leaders and making use of gossipy schoolchildren.

He is critical of parts of the U.S. national pandemic plan that call for the use of quarantine and other imposed types of enforcement should influenza or any other infectious disease bring on a pandemic.

"Never use the police or the military," Henderson told a meeting organized by the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center's Center for Biosecurity, where he works.

"Once we brought military or police in, we found many citizens retired to the woods," Henderson told the meeting on Tuesday.

And when the health teams tried to quarantine families, they found a similar response. "People hid," he said. "They didn't want to be quarantined so they hid cases."

But if the government's objective is not to stop the spread of infection, but rather to protect its own interests, and it sees force as the necessary means, then such advice is useless.

It sure seems to me as though Bush is itching for a reason to declare marshall law, given how many times we're seeing it recommended as a disaster response. While I don't believe that an avian flu epidemic is imminent, or even likely, I have little doubt that the first response would be deployment of American troops on American soil for law enforcement.

Hiding in the woods, though... a wise plan to avoid the plague (of soldiers or infection, take your pick). All the more reason to have a designated place for retreat.

Labels: , ,